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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12131


Mr VASTA (Bonner) (21:30): Since I was re-elected late last year, I have noticed that I have received a big increase in the amount of constituent correspondence compared to when I was in office back in 2007. What this shows is that there is a lot of need in our community, a lot of concern about the direction of our economy and a lot of trepidation about the overall future of our country.

When I talk with people in the community, their biggest complaint is that they feel that they are not being listened to by the present Labor government. Many people also have a lot of questions—not just of me but also of Tony Abbott and other members of his shadow ministerial team—that they want answered and they have suggestions for improvement on how this country is run. That is precisely why I was very happy to have Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, come to visit Bonner and host a community forum late last month. It gave over 300 Bonner community members the opportunity to ask important questions of a man who is the alternative Prime Minister of this country. When listening to the people talk at this forum it became very apparent that the recurrent theme was their concern for the spiralling cost of living. This concern is further heightened by Labor's impending carbon tax. I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for coming to Bonner and I want to acknowledge in this House the commitment he demonstrates in travelling all over Australia to talk to real people at community forums like the one he attended in Bonner.

This month I was also fortunate to receive a visit from Senator Fierravanti-Wells, shadow minister for ageing, who hosted an aged-care forum in Carindale last week. The forum had a good mix of providers and members of the public who made it very apparent that the aged-care sector is sick of reviews and is anxious for the government to respond to the Productivity Commission's report Caring for older Australians. I know that many felt reassured after hearing from the senator that the coalition is committed to the delivery of a high-quality, affordable and accessible aged-care scheme that meets the needs and preferences of older Australians.

In addition, I want to thank Sophie Mirabella, shadow minister for innovation, industry and science, who also hosted a manufacturing roundtable in Bonner last week. The roundtable brought together a diverse range of manufacturers based in Bonner who are each facing a variety of pressures. It was a great opportunity to focus on the concerns of local manufacturers and to add further impetus to the policy development process that the coalition is undertaking to address what Paul Howes aptly terms 'the greatest crisis in manufacturing since the Great Depression'. All roundtable participants agreed that there are simply too many pressures on Australian manufacturing at the moment and that this government must create better economic settings and incentives to help manufacturing businesses to invest, to compete on a level playing field and to grow.

Another colleague I would like to acknowledge is Sussan Ley, shadow minister for employment participation, childcare and early childhood learning, who visited Bonner recently to meet with family day carers who are deeply concerned about the national quality framework changes and what they mean for them. Three carers who between them have had over 50 years of experience in the childcare industry are a great example of how this government is intent on forcing people like them to gain a certificate level qualification in order to keep their job, denying them the acknowledgement and respect they deserve. Their concern is that this will force out of the industry providers who are so committed to the children they care for and who have the most valuable experience of all—something that no classroom learning can impart.

All of these forums gave the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, and his team the opportunity to hear firsthand the issues that individuals, families and manufacturers are concerned about and, most of all, to hear what needs changing. These community forums would not have been possible without community attendance, and I want to thank all the Bonner constituents who have showed an active interest in the future direction of this country by attending these forums to listen, to have their say and, most importantly, to be heard.